Community Service Officer Emily Watson started a new position at the end of September with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Peninsula Detachment, which serves both the Key Peninsula and the Gig Harbor areas.
Watson’s role is to be a liaison between the sheriff’s office and the community.
Watson has worked as a CSO with the county sheriff in other areas for four years, and comes from a background of working with teens in crisis. A native of Tacoma, she had traveled often to the west side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for visits.
Watson said her emphasis is getting the community more involved. In her first few weeks on the job, the main thing she noticed is that “the community is scared to come forward with problems.” “I want to change that, to have people call us,” she said. “People aren’t reporting when their tires are getting slashed or having their vehicle broken into — and those are crimes.”
Watson said even when a crime has not been committed and a police report would not be generated, she would collect the information and create a record on file. That helps document a problem, and may help later in finding patterns in neighborhoods and collecting other information.
Watson encourages residents to call her “if you think there is a problem and something is not right, but you’re hesitant to call 911” or the sheriff’s office. She can also educate people on available resources, from roaming dogs to dumped vehicles.
Watson brought one example when residents should contact the CSO for help: animals. She can collect all the necessary information and facilitate the county animal patrol officers’ response.
“The community service officer is designed to help the department address community issues that a uniformed deputy doesn’t have time to address…It enhances our ability to reach out to the community,” said Lt. Larry Bauer, the chief of the Peninsula Detachment. “It’s also a resource for the community when they have questions.”
Bauer said the detachment will also add a neighborhood policing officer (NPO) at the beginning of next year, who will work with the CSO to target persistent problems such as drug activity and quality of life issues.
“Things will improve a lot in 2006,” Bauer said. “It is one of the most exciting changes I’ve seen in the department in my time.”
Bauer said adding an NPO is a way to proactively address problems, and the program has been successful in other parts of the county. The NPO position will be temporary as a tryout, and he says if it proves successful, the department would look at long-term funding for it.
CSO Emily Watson may be contacted by phone at 798-4940.